Generally, the idea of the single West African currency, the Eco, sounds interesting. However, there are aspects that can be terrifying and I hope have been considered in the risk assessment. It is easy to look at regions where this experiment has been tried like the Euro, and see the flaws. But we must understand that our social contexts vastly differ. For one, West African countries didn’t define their national borders. And this fault-line of living in territories mapped out by Europeans for Europeans still sip into individual countries. I question the possibility of this regional bloc forged by one currency degenerating nation-states into the ethnic elements. Without the right foundation, it is possible to brew growing suspicions of other ethnicities further dividing the region internally and leaving better prepared for the next wave of colonialisation by any strategically positioned global power.
The idea overall is good; boost regional trade and enable the emergence of a regional trading bloc that can negotiate on a global scale, especially on favourable terms of trade on its raw material.
If all the West African countries are able to meet the criteria for entering the single currency market, has all that can be said about the West African CFA been said? what are the terms for the termination of CFA? Could this be a Trojan horse for the French? That is French interest remains in French West and can be used to systemically destabilise the region?
With a large volume of foreign money, other questions arise: how do we protect our democracies? What can prevent riggers in (for example) Côte d’Ivoire from simply paying voters in Nigeria and bringing them en mass to vote in an election, especially as the currencies are now the same, and border restrictions are looser?
Not only can a large volume of money be used to destabilise politics, it can also be used to influence economies too. Companies can be established in regions of lower cost and compete all over the region. Now hear this: when resources can flow all over the region without constrains, all the players (at least on the surface) compete on a level footing. However, the main stage for the competition will change into other items rarely discussed like the cost be in cost of capital….that is how much does it cost you to borrow? Cost of capital in West African countries are in their double digits with countries like Gambia witnessing bank rates as high as 20%. Europe has rates in single digits and China. What could stop the flow of capital towards the manufacturing of products for consumption for West Africans? This can undermine the local economy’s capacity to innovate and perpetuate the imbalance we are trying to negate?
The prospect looks promising, but I feel the region will only truly benefit from this arrangement if it is able to properly protect its young and nascent nationhood and economy.